The Pastmapper project “Mapping 60 Years of Greenwich Village”, displays data from five federal censuses (1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940) onto a Google-based map. While the Pastmapper website claims that the project “for West 9th Street features buildings, businesses, and neighborhood features through the years,” the only records transcribed by this class were census records and thus no information on businesses was transcribed. The promise of this project is intriguing and the combination of information will allow for many research topics. Visual depiction of this information is an ideal format. It would be great if this project eventually enables users to refine searches by every available census header, including building number, occupation, ancestry, etc.
The 1930 Census Data from West 9th Street illustrates the great diversity of residents of Greenwich Village during that time. Inhabitants were persons of all ages and education levels, from young Irish servants to New York-born male bankers age 50 and older. From the occupation listing the researcher can see a high level of education with teachers, urologists, writers, editors, stenographers, designers, statisticians, and bookkeepers. Artists and actors are also well represented, as one might expect from the neighborhood at that time.
As the Pastmapper website quotes from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, West 9th Street boasted “an air of solid respectability, of tradition and culture.” This respectability comes through in the predominantly white, Anglo Saxon demographic makeup of the neighborhood. Even the servants were white. The 1930s census records also revealed a mixture of people who lived in both boarding houses and upper class townhouses (upper class was inferred since several properties included people with the classification of “servant” under the relationship to the head of household). It was striking by how many female heads of houses lived on the street in 1930, some of whom even owned their homes. Yet, most women listed were single and lived with relatives.
From studying the decade of census records for this street, one could conclude there was a large population (approximately 43%) of first generation Americans whose parents emigrated mainly from Europe, especially Italy and Ireland. Many respondents not from the United States were servants, and those came primarily from Ireland. It was also interesting to note that many families came from similar geographic areas, but since they had different last names it was not apparent if they had a family connection or if the families migrated together. Additionally, though many respondents were born in the United States and had parents from the United States, many were not born in New York State and even fewer were second-generation New Yorkers. Though a substantial number of respondents were born in New Jersey or Connecticut, many came from Midwestern states. This is not surprising since even now New York City’s culture, industry and opportunities attract people from across the nation.
Once all data is viewable, it will be interesting to note how demographics (ancestry, residence type – home, boarding house, apartment, occupation, education, etc.) of the street changed with any trends or consistency. Regarding education level, data as recorded on Pastmapper began to show a pattern in which children who grew up on this street were the only ones with educational backgrounds. But that data is misleading and incomplete. Closer examination of the actual census form reveals that education level records specifically whether respondents “Attended school or college any time since September 1, 1929.” Many respondents, especially professionals, presumably attended school before that date.
When this Pastmapper project is finished, it would be interesting to include information from the last 2010 census to see how the neighborhood has changed over the past 70 years.
-Bonnie Gordon, Jackie Rider and Lynda Van Wart